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What is eye pain?

Eye pain can be sharp, aching or throbbing, and can affect one or both eyes. Eye pain is more serious than the simple irritation one feels from a piece of dirt or small foreign object in the eye. In such cases, discomfort disappears once the foreign object is removed.

Although eye pain is common, it can indicate a serious problem. Ophthalmalgia is another name for eye pain. A sore eye can generate a variety of symptoms which can help your eye doctor determine the source of your suffering and prescribe the most suitable treatment plans.

Depending on what is going on in a person’s eyes it’s possible that it affects both eyes. This may cause a wide range of conditions ranging from injuries in eyes or skin irritations to bacterial or viral infections.

Depending on where you experience the discomfort, eye pain can fall into one of two categories:

  • Ocular pain occurs on the eye’s surface, and
  • Orbital pain occurs within the eye.

Eye pain that occurs on the surface may be a scratching, burning, or itching sensation. Surface pain is usually caused by irritation from a foreign object, infection , or trauma. Often, this type of eye pain is easily treated with eye drops or rest.

Pain Behind Your Eye. At one time or another, each of us has likely experienced some type of eye pain. It can range from dull to intense and can be sometimes be accompanied by:

  • fever,
  • tearing,
  • redness,
  • light sensitivity,
  • sinus pressure,
  • double vision,
  • numbness.

Most often, pain behind your eye isn’t a serious condition, but in some instances, it can be. That’s why it’s important to figure out

Who is more likely to experience eye pain?

The symptoms that cause eye pain can not be linked to specific individuals or groups. Eye injuries can occur to anyone, especially when protective eyewear has been stopped when doing activities with eye protection.

When to see an eye doctor?

The only way to sort out the causes of eye pain and to get the right treatment is to see an eye doctor.

Your vision is precious. Protect it by taking eye pain seriously.

Eye pain should be taken seriously. However, eye pain along with any of the following symptoms is of great concern:

  • Vomiting
  • A visual sensation of halos around lights
  • A buildup of fluid pressure behind the cornea
  • Signs of bodily infection (such as fever or chills)
  • Blurred vision
  • Bulging eyeballs
  • Inability to move the eyes through their normal range.
  • If you begin experiencing vision loss in addition to eye pain, this may be a sign of an emergency situation.

What causes eye pain?

Mild eye pain and discomfort are common. These symptoms can develop due to eyestrain or dryness, both of which can occur when someone spends a long period of time focusing the eyes on screens or books.

When pressure builds up behind your eyes, it can cause pain on one or both sides.

Stye : This is a tender bump on the edge of your eyelid. It happens when an oil gland, eyelash, or hair follicle gets infected or inflamed. You may hear your doctor call it a chalazion or hordeolum.

Other Symptoms Eye pain can happen on its own or with other symptoms, like: Less vision Discharge: It can be clear or thick and colored Foreign body sensation — the feeling that something is in the eye, whether real or imagined Headache Light sensitivity Nausea or vomiting Red eye or pinkeye Tearing Your eye is crusted

Common conditions associated with eye pain?

Common conditions and symptoms linked to eye pain can include:

  • Cellulitis :
  • Inflammation of tissue beneath the surface of the skin.
  • Preseptal : Affects the skin of the eyelid; found especially in young children.
  • Orbital : Affects the eye socket, causing the eye or eyelid to swell.

Symptoms associated with eye pain

If you have eye pain, it’s likely to experience the following as well.

  • Redness
  • Discharge
  • Itchiness
  • Swelling
  • Trouble seeing
  • Photophobia – Discomfort in bright light
  • Headache
  • Sinus pressure

Common Causes

Eye pain may cause distraction and debilitation. Many common causes can be treated.

Here are some common reasons for this.


Stye is an oval-shaped ring with an red tinge that is shaped like a pimple. It can be placed underneath the eyelid and in the eye. Styes occur when an oil-producing eye lobe gets infected.

Keratitis :

An infection of the cornea (the clear dome-shaped front of the eye) resulting from injury or use of contact lenses. The infection can be caused by a fungus, bacteria, herpes virus, amoeba, or intense exposure to ultraviolet radiation (such as in snow blindness or welder’s arc eye). If left untreated, blindness can occur.


Fluid buildup in the front of the eye, causing pressure that damages the optic nerve. This is the leading cause of blindness in people over 60 years of age.

A sudden rise in pressure, called acute angle closure glaucoma, is an emergency, and immediate treatment is needed to prevent permanent vision loss.

Acute angle closure glaucoma causes pressure inside your eye to rise suddenly. Symptoms include severe eye pain , nausea and vomiting , headache , and worsening vision. This is an emergency. You need treatment ASAP to prevent blindness.


Contact a GP as soon as possible if you have persistent eye pain or an unusual change in your vision, particularly if you’ve had previous episodes of uveitis.

Uveitis is inflammation of the middle layer of the eye, called the uvea or uveal tract. It can cause eye pain and changes to your vision. Most cases get better with treatment – usually steroid medicine. But sometimes uveitis can lead to further eye problems such as glaucoma and cataracts . The sooner uveitis is treated, the more successful treatment is likely to be.

Uveitis can destroy eye tissue and may cause vision loss.

The symptoms include:

  • eye pain
  • blurry vision dark,
  • floating spots in vision
  • sensitivity to light
  • redness

The cause of uveitis is not always clear. It may develop due to an eye injury, infection, tumor , or autoimmune condition. It can be an acute condition that goes away or a chronic condition that reoccurs.

Iritis or uveitis :

An inflammation inside your eye from trauma, infections, or problems with your immune system . Symptoms include pain, red eye, and, often, worse vision.

Anterior uveitis

uveitis at the front of the eye (anterior uveitis or iritis) – this can cause redness and pain and tends to start quickly. This is the most common type of uveitis, accounting for about 3 in 4 cases uveitis in the middle of the eye (intermediate uveitis) – this can cause floaters and blurred vision, sensitivity to light,

Posterior uveitis

Uveitis at the back of the eye (posterior uveitis) – this can cause vision problems. Uveitis can sometimes affect both the front and the back of the eye. This is known as panuveitis. Uveitis can also be described according to how long it lasts. For example: acute uveitis – uveitis that develops suddenly and chronic – slow on set.

Some of the more common complications of uveitis include:

  • glaucoma – where the optic nerve, which connects your eye to your brain, becomes damaged; it can lead to loss of vision if not found and treated
  • early cataracts – where changes in the lens of the eye cause it to become less transparent, resulting in cloudy or misty vision cystoid macular oedema – swelling of the retina.

Dry eye

Dry eyes can bring on sensitivity to light and headaches, both of which can be painful and lead to pain behind your eyes.

Dry eyes are common. The tear ducts do not produce sufficient tears for keeping the eyes dry. Dry eyes may also cause other problems.

It can affect people over the age of 60 or older and those without adequate vitamin and mineral intakes.

People who have other autoimmune diseases may also suffer from dry eye.

Dry eye can happen as long as people look at their screens.

A combination of heat and humidity can cause a serious headache.

Chronic dry eyes

Dry eyes syndrome (medically named keratoconjunctivitis sicca), occurs when a lack of tears to keep the eyes moist. These conditions are common in people of any age but become more common with age.

Causes include

  • aging,
  • some medications,
  • evaporative tears caused by air pollution,
  • low blink frequency, and
  • underlying conditions.

Fortunately, artificial tears can relieve symptoms by treating it by eye drop and gel.

Inflamed eyelid (blepharitis)

Blepharitis is caused when bacteria invade the skin of the eyelids.

When the oil gland in the eye lashes is damaged it will multiply with the oil and cause infections. These glands may become blocked by dandruff in the brows and scalp; allergic reactions or eyes with eyelash mites or lice.

Symptoms can include

  • red, swollen, and painful eyelids;
  • oily and dandruff-like skin on eyelids;
  • abnormally grown or fallen eyelash skin.

If symptoms are still unclear after washing, contact your doctor for assistance.

Contact lens-related eye infections

Using contact lenses at night is more prone to eye irritation due to infections or irritants.

Contact lens usage can cause serious problems for many people. The lens should often be cleaned and wiped out. Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria often involve and any infection brought into the eyes may result in conjunctivitis. Contact lens solutions are frequently used to clean contact lenses. The same bacteria which causes chlamydiosis & gonorrhea can cause conjunctive infections.


Sharp eye pain An injury to the eye or trauma can often cause sharp or stabbing eye pain.

Brain Tumor

In extremely rare cases, sharp or stabbing eye pain can be a symptom of a much more serious condition, such as a brain tumor or aneurysm.

Foreign body in the eye

The most common eye problems happen when someone put something inside of your eyes. When you see a foreign object, it may be irritating red eyes, watery eyelids, or swollen eyes.

Foreign body parts including metals, metals and wood particles can fall under the eye.

The problem is very severe. It’s best to visit your doctor immediately. Drops can help alleviate pain, and eye tests are necessary.

A referral to the opthalmologist is necessary in cases of leaking eyes.

Fungal infection

Fungus also causes eye diseases. People working in farms and gardens and those with contact lenses, have a high chance of developing fungal eyes diseases.

Other risk factors include diabetes and the need for corticosteroids for autoimmune disease. The symptoms of fungal eyes are serious and require immediate treatment. All fungal eye infections require prescription medications. The treatment includes antifungal eye drops, medications and sometimes surgery.

Bacterial conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis (pink eye) :

An infection or allergic reaction in the conjunctiva, the mucous membranes that line the inner eyelids and surface of the eyeballs.

Viral : Most common type of pink eye.

The pink eye is caused by bacterial infections in the clear skin around the eye. It may cause redness, painful discomfort, or irritation in the eye. Staphylococcus and streptococcal bacteria can cause conjunctivitis.

Touch eyes with dirty hands and dirty eyewear is often caused and the resulting irritation may result from a lack of proper care. Besides causing conjunctionitis bacterial infections like HIV/AIDS can also lead to conjunctivitis. Those with a high level of exposure are children, but everyone may be impacted.

Anyone with symptoms of conjunctivitis should wash their hands regularly, especially after touching the eye area. It is also a good idea to temporarily: stop wearing contact lenses stop wearing eye makeup stop sharing towels and other personal items avoid swimming pools.

Corneal abrasion

Corneal damage occurs in a region called the cornea. The corneas are crystalline clear tissue covering the front eye. The lens in our eyes is used by this lens to focus on retina. ER visits are necessary for severe and painful injuries. You can take any eye drops that relieve pain and the eye heals within a day.

Corneal abrasion : A scrape or scratch on the cornea.

Corneal Abrasion The most common abrasion in the cornea is a scratch in the cornea. Corneal sprains may arise from an individual injury or in conjunction with a greater accident. The tearing of the contacts can damage the cornea. Eye pain caused due to corneal damage is sometimes severe.

Corneal laceration :

A cut on the cornea, usually caused by a sharp object flying into the eye, or something hitting the eye with force. A laceration may tear partially or completely through the eyeball.

Corneal Ulcer

Corneal ulcer : An open sore on the cornea causes severe eye pain.

Optic Neuritis

Optic neuritis – You may experience eye pain and vision loss if the optic nerve, which connects the back of the eyeball to the brain, becomes inflamed. An autoimmune disease or a bacterial or viral infection can cause optic neuritis.


Sinusitis, an infection in one or more of your sinuses, causes pressure to build up behind or below one or both


For infectious conditions:

  • Eye drops that reduce inflammation ( corticosteroids ) or that widen the pupil of the eye in order to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Antibiotic, antifungal or antiviral eye drops.
  • Oral non-narcotic medications to reduce pain or allergy symptoms.
  • To keep eyelids clean and loosen crusts, gently press a clean, warm compress over your eyes for 10 minutes, two to four times a day.
  • Medications Your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to treat your eye problem. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) eye drops can soothe eye pain. These drops are usually not prescribed for long periods because they can cause cornea problems.
  • Allergy eye drops , either over-the-counter or prescription, can relieve the redness, itchiness, and puffiness of allergic conjunctivitis. Artificial tears are used to soothe dry eyes.
  • Uveitis needs medical attention. Treatment is usually with prescription eye drops or medication. The aim is to reduce pain and inflammation , prevent tissue damage, and restore vision.
  • Surgery

Other treatments: Lubricating eye drops. Surgical treatments can replace a damaged or scarred cornea with transplanted cells or an entire cornea. Surgery can also help restore the function of damaged eye muscles or remove a foreign object from the eye. Laser surgery can improve drainage in the eye in cases of glaucoma.


Some people who suffer from glaucoma use medication that reduces pressure inside the eyes.

Pain medications

If you experience pain or are experiencing difficulty with your daily routine, your doctor might prescribe pain relief medication that will ease it until the cause is corrected.


10 Causes of Eye Pain Dr. Russel Lazarus, November 4, 2021

Angle Closure Glaucoma. Johns Hopkins Medicine: Glaucoma Center of Excellence

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